The Butterfly Effect

The delicate, flapping wings of a butterfly have the power to set molecules of air in motion, in turn moving more molecules of air—a tiny act that is eventually capable of affecting weather patterns on the other side of the planet. This notion comes from a concept within Chaos Theory called the Butterfly Effect. Simply, the Butterfly Effect refers to a phenomenon in our world in which a small change in one place can result in equal or greater changes elsewhere. This may seem crazy—a tiny butterfly changing global weather ­patterns? Not only is the Butterfly Effect a real scientific theory but it’s also an intriguing philosophical idea. I say all this because the Butterfly Effect affects the way I live my life and the decisions that I make in a way that no ideas about God ever have.

I’m no meteorologist, nor am I well versed in entomology, but ever since learning about the Butterfly Effect, I have been attracted to it because it demonstrates an important principle that is often forgotten. Namely, each of our actions has effects that are more profound than we think. Interconnection is a major theme found in nearly all of the world’s religious and philosophical traditions. The interconnectedness of our universe is also one of the most significant revelations of physics: All components of matter are interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent. As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm and promote our responsibility to remain aware of interconnection through our seventh Principle: respect for the interdependent web of all exis­tence.

Attention to interconnectivity reminds me, despite the many sociopolitical forces that work to divide us from one another, that I’m never alone in this world. It reminds me that each decision or action I make has reactions, and that those reactions reverberate as waves moving back and forth across our globe. This compels me to live my life aware of the consequences of my daily actions, from the purchases I make to personal inter­actions with others. I certainly do not always succeed, but I try. My awareness of interconnectivity and efforts to work against the illusion of division remain my most significant spir­it­ual practice.

This spiritual practice also gives me the ability to stand in awe of interconnection, in awe of the Butterfly Effect and the power that comes with it. On rare occasions, I am reminded to stop and appreciate the divinity of interconnectivity revealed before my very eyes. This to me is awe-inspiring. This to me is divine.

Cover of Becoming: A Spiritual Guide for Navigating Adulthood


By Kayla Parker

From Skinner House Books

A spiritual companion for young adults and all who live amid transitions and tensions. Dozens of carefully selected readings address themes that are prominent for people in their twenties and early thirties.

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